Massachusetts Latino population will soon hit 15 percent
New study projects population of 1.15 million by 2035
The Massachusetts Latino population is projected to reach 1.15 million in 2035, up from 757,000 in 2015, according to a study released last week by the Mauricio Gaston Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy. By 2035, Latinos are expected to account for 15 percent of the state’s population.
The growth in the Latino population will have far-ranging policy implications for how the state provides education, public health and public services, according to academics with the Gaston Institute and members of the Massachusetts Legislative Black and Latino Caucus who gathered at a State House briefing on the report.
Among the findings:
The Latino population will be younger than the state’s population as a whole, with most falling in the 25-29 age range, while the majority of the overall Massachusetts population is in the 40-44 range.
While Dominicans and Puerto Ricans make up the majority of the state’s Latino population, people from Mexico and Central and South America also make up a sizeable portion of the community.
Immigration accounts for much of the Latino community’s population growth, but the majority of the state’s Latino Population is and will continue to be native-born. Latinos as a group have a higher birthrate than whites, African Americans and Asians.
The surge in the state’s Latino population is likely to occur in the state’s so-called gateway cities — post-industrial communities such as Lawrence and Springfield.
Ten percent of the state’s 600,000 small businesses are owned by Latinos.
With an increased number of native Spanish-speakers in Massachusetts, more school districts may have to shift away from the sheltered English immersion model adopted in the state in 2002.
“The state needs to have other models for bilingual education and think about opportunities in our schools for increasing the high school graduation rate for English language learners,” Gaston Institute Director Lorna Rivera said.
State Rep. Aaron Vega, whose district includes the city of Holyoke, with a Latino population of 50 percent, said dual language schools in his city are popular with both Latino and white families.
Rep. Nika Elugardo, whose district includes parts of Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Mission Hill and Brookline, said it’s incumbent on state and local government to help communities respond to the needs of the state’s growing Latino population.
“If we’re going have a million Latinos in our state, what are we doing for non-Latinos to make sure that our cultural competence is up to par, to make sure more people are speaking Spanish, to make sure more businesses are receiving cultural competence training,” she said.
“The Latino communities have re-built the economic engines of downtown,” said Springfield Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, a former president of the Latino Chamber of Commerce. “We have to concentrate on micro-businesses development, with under five employees. Those are the businesses that create 89 percent of the employment in low-income communities.”
As the Latino population in Massachusetts has grown, so too has the political clout Latinos have exercised from local school committees to the State House.
Now, with seven House members and one senator, Latino political representation has expanded greatly since 1989, when former Rep. Nelson Merced became the first Latino elected to the State House. Merced’s victory, in the 5th Suffolk District seat currently held by Cape Verdean-American Liz Miranda, came after members of the then-Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus advocated for the district to be redrawn so a Latino candidate could win election there.
The Black Caucus admitted Latino members for years before adding the word “Latino” to its name in 2009.
Gonzalez, who is the current chairman of the Caucus, noted that Latino electoral clout is growing in cities such as Springfield as Latino communities become better established. There are now two Latinas on the Springfield School Committee and two Latinos in the city council. Gonzalez said the Latino elected officials in Springfield work closely with the two African Americans on the school committee and five African Americans on the council.
“We’re a very cohesive group, working together,” he said. “We understand the issues are the same in black and brown communities.”
In addition to Vega, Elugardo and Gonzalez, other Caucus members in attendance at the Gaston Institute briefing included Haverhill Rep. Andy Vargas and Boston Rep. Jon Santiago, whose district includes parts of the South End and Roxbury neighborhoods.